‘Tell it like it is’ Tuesday ~ April: Writers’ Room 101


No, Victor Meldrew is not guest posting on my blog today. I’m just not in a very good mood, can you tell?

Why? ‘cos I’m 40!!

Booooo! BUT, here’s the good news: I am now officially allowed to moan…

Here on TiliiT, the idea was to give it to you straight.

No sugar-coating, no going round the houses, just deliver whatever it was I (or you shabby lot) wanted to say with as much subtlety as a right hook to the jaw in the final round or a Glasgow kiss (look it up my American friends) on a wet weekend at kicking out time.

So guess what?

You asked for it!

You asked for it!


We all have them right?

Pet hates, worst nightmares, absolute #fails? Everyone does.

It might be your partner leaving the toilet seat up and the loo roll empty. It could be the woman who sits next to you on the tube who talks into her phone really loudly, convinced that the whole world wants to hear what she told the girl in her office to do when battling over who was next to use the photocopier; it is most definitely the call you get late at night wanting to ask you if you are happy with your current electricity supplier or mobile phone provider. It’s human nature to be annoyed about things or fear situations and want them throwing down a bottomless well with a cast-iron lid, wearing concrete wellies.

Personally, my list is waaaaaay too long for this blog, so I will desist from putting you through it, however, as a writer I have a pretty consistent top ten!

We’ve all been there as fledgling scribes and virgin KDP’ers. We’ve made mistakes, we’ve committed the ultimate in social networking sin and hijacked another writer’s thread or dared to post something in the wrong place in a facebook group.  And hey, we should all be lined up and have virtual rotten cabbages pelted at us against a digital wall for tweeting too many times about our new books. Hell, we still do it.

We have to learn and when you are first starting out on the crazy journey that is becoming a writer, you will get things wrong. FACT.

You will also continue to get things wrong. It’s life. BUT, what usually happens, is that you learn from your mistakes…sometimes.

Welcome to my very own WRITERS’ ROOM 101

Straight in at 10…


Now look, I know as well as anyone how it feels when someone publically trashes your work. Hell, they might as well stand at ten paces with a flaming, hook-tipped arrow aimed at your heart whilst wearing a neon ‘We ♥ Mo Hayder’ t-shirt and grinding a copy of your latest manuscript into the dirt with one foot. It’s painful. AND it makes you angry.

If they only the reader knew the time and effort, not to mention that huge part of your soul, that you put into writing your book. Surely they would re-think and at least give you two stars and maybe remove some of the expletives from their slating, right? WRONG. And, equally wrong of us to expect them to.

When we first started out, we received some nerve-jangling one star reviews. Some were justified (it is UBER-IMPORTANT to ensure that your book is correctly formatted and has been spell-checked and proof-read before publishing), some were clearly anonymous trolls with an agenda and others were just from readers who didn’t like the book.



And hey, guess what? They’re allowed this opinion.

Do yourself a massive favour and try not to let it bother you. Sure, take heed if a reader tells you that there are errors or glaring plot-holes because with the best will in the world (and an army of beta readers) there will still be things you miss. Make changes; that’s the beauty of digital publishing (no trees were harmed in the correction of mistakes) but do not, I repeat, do NOT, under any circumstances, reply publicly to negative reviews. NOT EVERYONE WILL LIKE YOUR BOOK.

Some writers are of the opinion that you should never reply at all, even to positive reviews. Heck, Karin Slaughter told me that she doesn’t even read them, but that is your choice. Personally, I have made some great contacts and even friends via postings on the net and emails about my books, so I’ll leave that one to you, but please, take this one seriously. As I infamously once said (see, we all do it) in a raging on-line debate under a newspaper article, a reader cannot unbuy a book (and yes, before you start, I realise that theoretically, they can return one). Similarly, they cannot unread something that you have written, even if you remove it. The cyber-imprint remains in the ether like a fading negative. It will be remembered.

A non-mover at 9 is…


See above for this one.

OK, I admit, all writers are also readers and that means that they are also entitled to an opinion on a book. You paid for it, right? So you’re allowed to leave a review as long as Mo Farrah’s legs about how awful it was and how the writer should be ashamed of themselves for publishing it? NO. YOU’RE NOT.

Why? Because even if it is true and even if you did feel that you’ve just wasted four hours of your life that you’ll never get back and a fiver that you needed for the kids’ lunch money, you’ll look bitter and unprofessional.

You could even be accused of deliberate sabotage and let’s face it, it’s hard enough being a writer as it is, without an army of enemies amongst your peers and readership eh?

So ZIP IT (and smoulder quietly away on the inside). Honest, you’ll thank me for this one.

It’s a new entry at 8…

#8 – KINDLEBOARDS (more specifically the Writers’ Cafe)

Okay, I admit, I am skating on ice thinner than Luis Suarez’ excuses for biting Ivanovich at the weekend are wearing, with this one (and risking adding to the troops in the army mentioned in #9) but I feel compelled to warn you about this.

Firstly, let me start by saying that KINDLEBOARDS is a pretty good site in general. (now called Kboards).  If you own a Kindle, want to talk about Kindles, want links to books, wanna learn the ropes for Kindle publishing and generally wanna get all kindled-up, it’s cool and it is very well run. I spent many an hour on these boards back in the day and found some brilliant advice and links. I am STILL a member and every other week, will pop in and see what is afoot. Herein lies the problem.

If you are offended by what you might have read at #10 and are appalled at the thought of the accusations you might have unleashed against you if you commit the lone star review sin of #9, then the Writers’ Cafe is not for you.

There’s some pretty gnarly characters to be found on that there board and if you’re just starting out in the writing wilderness, it certainly isn’t the best or kindest place to cut your teeth. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.


80% of the folk that post there are genuinely nice and helpful, but as always, whenever you hang out with peeps in the same business as yourself, there’s bound to be back-biting, sniping and down-right jealousy.

My advice? Become a sometime-lurker. Hang around, read the posts that grab your attention and follow the links that you think might be useful. DO NOT tout your books, dare to argue with a seasoned member or post a topic that has been posted before. Oh and beware, Kboards is a major time-suck. Before you know it, you will be receiving personal hate messages and fretting about it on the way to the post office to draw your pension; and the book you were once writing…?

Holding steady at number 7…

#7 – Social media slaying/bashing/stoning of fellow writers or readers (aka facebook f*ck-ups)

Right, we all know that there are three things that should never be discussed at a dinner party and that they say never to work with animals or children on television, so why, oh why, would you publicly disagree with someone on your social media platform?


I’ll keep this one brief and very, very simple. JUST DON’T.

Back up from eight to number 6…

#6 – ‘How I made five billion Martianese sabretooth Drachma in just three weeks’ books

Since the advent of KDP and digital publishing, everyone and their dog have jumped on the bandwagon with a veritable plethora of ‘How to’ books. Sheesh, I even bought a couple and back then, they were value for money (for us) and there still are some out there now, that as a newbie writer, you would do well to spend a couple of quid on.

These two, should belong in every writers’ virtual locker:

Kristen Lamb’s ‘WE ARE NOT ALONE

The fabulous WANAMama tells you all you need to know about social media

The fabulous WANAMama tells you all you need to know about social media

Anne R Allen & Cathryn Ryan Hyde’s ‘HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE

These two experienced writers certainly 'Pay it forward' with what they've learned

These two experienced writers certainly ‘Pay it forward’ with what they’ve learned

There are some other really useful ‘How to’ books out there, but please make sure that you research them properly before buying. All too often, they have an enticing title that promises you’ll get rich from your book in less time than it takes Ussain Bolt to run for an ice-cream and with as little effort. Do you notice how none of these so-called “experts” don’t actually have any bestsellers in the charts??

Mostly, it is the same information (most of which you probably already know) re-hashed and put inside a new, snazzy cover. If there really was a secret to success with digitally publishing a book, do you think they’d be sharing it?

Down three places at number five…

#5 – ‘Candy Crush-like’ capers on fb & twitter

Any writer who has a twitter or fb account will tell you the same thing: the majority of their followers/likers/scary cyber-stalkers are other writers.

Now that’s all well and good and it is great to share experiences, moan about sales slumps and find out useful marketing tools and sites hosting book giveaways etc. What isn’t so great is the endless barrage of likemyauthorpageorcutecatwithsunglassesonpicture-joinmyfanclub-cometomybooklauncheventhoughitsnotreal-sharemydeal-buymybookandillbuyyours requests that litter your timeline or clog up your newsfeed, nor do they sell you many books.

Social media and self-promotion is a necessary evil when you’re a writer, but try not to get sucked into the writers’ whirl that exists on these platforms and TRUST NO ONE.


Anyone can put a photo of a cheery-looking, semi-retired grandma of three who writes historical chick-lit and tell you how wonderful it would be if you just featured them on your blog and helped them sell the 25th copy of their latest book so that they could afford to send their poorly aunty on a trip to the local whist-drive one last time before she succumbs to a tropical disease that she picked up whilst nursing in the Crimean war – it doesn’t mean that they’re not really a fat, balding, bitter sci-fi fan who has had their latest manuscript rejected for the gazillionth time and you’ve just agreed to co-write a short story with them.

You remember that your mother told you to never take sweets from strangers, yeah?


Right, so why on earth would you spend all day getting a lard-arse in your faux-leather chair with your nose pressed to the screen of your pc, accepting invites for virtual events and tweeting links to books that you’ve never read? LIMIT THE TIME YOU SPEND ON FB & TWITTER AND USE IT TO INTERACT WITH READERS.

A surprise inclusion in the chart at number four…

#4 – The two-headed monster that is the PUBLISHAGENTASAURUSREX

No, they haven’t been wiped off the planet leaving a smouldering pile of iPad entrails and singed Armani and yes, you can still play nicely in the playground with them.

What is this shit about book stores becoming extinct, everyone reading on the walls of their living room by 2015 and the agenticide rates going through the glass ceiling when they realise that they are gonna have to retrain as lifecoaches?


Yes, digital is here to stay and taking a larger chunk of the market year-on-year and no, having a literary agent does not mean that your masterpiece will never see the light of day, but get real folks. We can all share the sandpit together and lend our spades, even if we now have more choice on what colour that spade might be, how big a hole we let them dig with it and when we ask for it back.

Publishing is evolving, not dying and roles are changing. That doesn’t mean they are no longer required or useful to you as a writer.

We have had this term hybrid author thrust in our faces recently and I guess it’s as good a way as any to describe the new scribe who takes both a traditional publishing deal and retains digital rights –  for now. I am sure that new deals and machinations will evolve as the publishing landscape changes again, as it is certain to do. Personally, I don’t like being labelled. I prefer the term writer

Down 2 places from last week, number 3…

#3 – When is a bestseller really a bestseller?

So come on, what’s the magic number? What was it back in the day? Did a debut author have to sell 1,000 copies? 5, 000 copies? 10,000? to be considered a success…

How many record sales did it take to get to number one in 1980 compared to today?

Here’s one for you: Our debut novel has sold more digital copies than JLS sold of their last album, Evolution. Does that make us bestsellers? I like to think so.

What I DON’T like, is authors who sell 50 books and end up in some obscure category at number 99 for an hour that has nothing to do with their genre and then hail themselves as bestsellers because they appeared on a list.

Example here:

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 09.24.00

That’s just a lie.

The bestseller tag is hard to disprove for a reader and it’s true, there isn’t a number, but come on people, play fair and be truthful about what that status really means…

Last week’s number one is this week’s number two…

#2 – Rumble in the literary jungle: Indie vs Trad

When is a writer not a writer?

When they’re a painter.

I am sooooooooooo tired of listening to both camps harp on about the other.


I am sick of indie writers being vilified and told that they are the poor relation of unheard of mid-list writers whose sales they could probably count on one hand and their decrepit budgie’s foot and that because indie books haven’t been through the revered slush-pile that they are bottom feeders in the ‘tsunami of crap’. GET OVER YOURSELVES – ALL OF YOU.

A writer is a writer is a writer. THE END. (There, that has a beginning, a middle and an ending. Will that pass the Publishagentasaurusrex’s slush pile test d’ya think?)

Also see #4…

And so, to this week’s number one. A Writers’ Room 101 Chart-topper. My biggest fear/phobia/gut-wrenching, intestine-twister. The one thing that should scare the beejesus out of all of us…

#1 – BLANKPAGEitis

*scratches head* "Shouldn't there be something here?"

*scratches head* “Shouldn’t there be something here?”

You’ve spent so much of your precious and valuable time worrying about/taking part in/reading up on and arguing with everything mentioned in 10-2, that you haven’t written a goddamn single word – even if it was gonna be shite and no-one would ever want to publish it.

I don’t know much, but one thing’s for sure: if you’ve been doing any of the things in 10 through 2, you sure as hell haven’t been writing…


Writer, dreamer, pantser.

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Posted in books, writing
2 comments on “‘Tell it like it is’ Tuesday ~ April: Writers’ Room 101
  1. Great list! And many thanks for the shout-out for our book! I’ve been talking about a lot of this stuff on my blog recently. And I’ll be addressing the problem of online “twitchforks” and mob behavior liek the kind we sometimes see on the Kindleboards on Sunday.

    Love this “No, they haven’t been wiped off the planet leaving a smouldering pile of iPad entrails and singed Armani and yes, you can still play nicely in the playground with them.”

    The future is the hybrid author. It’s not one side against another. We all want to be BOTH.

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